red Supported Site Virginia Tech: Early Teaching Experience

Successes

  • We successfully developed and implemented the new course PHYS 3254 Enhanced Physics Outreach. Students have responded enthusiastically to the experience of working with high school teachers on physics outreach lesson plans.
  • In the first year, we successfully integrated two PhysTEC students into the EDCI/ME 4455 Engineering Leadership and Management course (Robotics Program) which provided these two students with much experience working with high school students on the design and competition of a robot. The PhysTEC students were very enthusiastic about their experience in this program. Their parents were also pleased to see how much the PhysTEC students got out of this program.
  • We established a new course, PHYS 2404 Physics Outreach, an outgrowth of the long standing independent study course in our outreach program.
  • We initiated the Physics Learning Assistant (LA) program in the second year of the program, with eleven LAs in the Fall 2012 semester and four continuing LAs in Spring 2013. In the second year of the LA program we had nine LAs in Fall 2013 and six LAs in Spring 2014.

Challenges

  • Convincing parents that teaching can be a rewarding and successful career for their children is a challenge in recruitment.
  • Obtaining enough experiences for what we expect to be an increasing number of PhysTEC students is a challenge.
  • It is challenging to get physics faculty to provide stimulating participatory experiences for LAs.
  • Getting physics faculty in upper-division courses to consider using LAs is a challenge.
  • It is a challenge to provide substantial LA experiences in lab courses.
  • Students are overburdened with many courses already, so participating in PHYS 3254 Enhanced Outreach and PHYS 2404 Physics Outreach can be difficult.

Sustainability

  • Institutionalizing courses that focus on early teaching experiences can sustain the effort.

Lessons Learned

  • Meaningful early teaching experiences incorporating large creative components (e.g., Robotics Program) are very good.
  • Early teaching experiences that provide an outcome that parents of PhysTEC students can experience (e.g., a regional competition in the Robotics Program), help to gain parental support for the student in their goal of becoming a teacher.
  • Outreach can be very important in recruiting PhysTEC students.

Activities

  • In the Robotics Program course, PhysTEC undergraduates mentor and interact with local high school students in preparation for regional and national competitions.
  • Physics majors on enhanced outreach visits to local schools interact with teachers and students, teaching physics through demonstrations and other means.
  • First year physics majors within the Seminar for Physics Majors course partake in "Teacher-student" activities, where students model teaching activities in working on solving problems.
  • We discuss teaching as a way to actually learn the physics, within the Seminar for Physics Majors course, emphasizing teaching as a part of doing physics.
  • We discuss the Learning Assistant Program within the Seminar for Physics Majors course as a means for motivating students toward thinking about teaching.